When I started thinking of writing about my favorite opening credits to movies, the first which came to mind were the ones for “A Few Good Men.” Directed by Rob Reiner, it is based on the play by Aaron Sorkin who also wrote the screenplay, and it is about the court-martial of two United States Marines who have been charged with the murder of a fellow Marine. Furthermore, it deals with the difficulties the lawyers are forced to endure in their defense, but you knew this already as the film stars Tom Cruise, Demi Moore, Jack Nicholson and Kevin Bacon among others.
What I love about these opening credits is the military exercises, or choreography if you will, by the Marines on display. They were performed here by the Texas A&M University’s Corps of Cadets Fish Drill Team, and I was enthralled at how in sync each member of this team was with the other. Throughout, they all move and react in a uniform way to where there is no weak link in the bunch. These military officers have been trained thoroughly to act as one unit, and it shows here as not one of them misses a beat throughout their exercises. They do not even have to look at one another to make sure they are in sync as all of them move like a well-oiled machine.
The drill these Marines perform during the opening titles hang over the rest of “A Few Good Men” as the film deals with many characters who are forced to deal with the death of a recruit whose passing has now put this platoon completely out of sync. The unity is now broken, and it may be a permanent break unless those in power can fix the situation to where everything is back in balance. But what will it take to put this platoon back to a unifying standard While some suggest charging the two marines with murder, others come to see they were only acting under orders by their superiors who had a different, yet illegal, way of bringing order to chaos. The whole movie, in essence, is about bringing an unbreakable unity back to a military system which has been seriously run off course by those whose powers have long since become corrupt.
Please check out the opening titles of “A Few Good Men” down below:
Claudia Myers’ “Fort Bliss” deals with something we don’t see much in movies: the challenges of being a female soldier and a single mom at the same time. The movie stars Michelle Monaghan as U.S. army medic Maggie Swann who has just returned home after serving a tour of duty in Afghanistan. But instead of arriving to greet her son Paul (Oakes Fegley) at the air base, she instead finds him back at home with his dad, her ex-husband Richard (Ron Livingston), and stepmom, and he doesn’t really remember her much. From there, Maggie works to repair the bond between her and Paul before her duties in the military threaten to tear them apart yet again.
Both Monaghan and Livingston dropped by the SLS Hotel in Los Angeles, California for the “Fort Bliss’” press day, and it was fascinating to hear about their experiences making this particular movie. This was a very low budget production, so there wasn’t much time for anyone to waste. I always wondered how actors deal with the lack of time because we are led to believe they are used to working on movies which allow them to take a nap in their trailers between takes while the crew sets up for the next shot. But while having fewer resources can seriously affect some actors, Monaghan and Livingston did not let any limitations stand in their way.
“There’s something really exciting about the idea that they just don’t have time to micromanage you in your performance, so there’s a lot more responsibility to just show up,” Livingston said. “Your first take on it is gonna be the take that goes into the movie by and large unless it’s really egregious because there’s not a lot of time to waste tinkering with it, you know?”
“It is true that you don’t have a lot of time to play with it,” Monaghan said. “I think that’s why the prep time becomes so essential for an independent film. It’s your responsibility as an actor or a director or a writer to really play your part. You can’t just turn up and expect all these experts to show you something on the day. That’s really, really important. That’s a part of our job, and also we shot this movie in 21 days. It was so incredibly exciting because we were living, eating and breathing it. We shot in two different locations in and around Los Angeles and then Fort Bliss (in El Paso, Texas) with the help of the Army. With all their resources, the production value looks by far more than what we had for it.
“21 days with combat sequences is pretty incredible,” Livingston noted.
Again, I imagine some actors would have preferred to have more time to prepare for the roles, but they don’t always have that opportunity. When it comes down to it, they have to work with what they are given instead of complain about what’s working against them. For Monaghan, the fact there wasn’t a lot of down time on the set of “Fort Bliss” didn’t affect her too much.
“There’s not (a lot of down time), but I always tend to find that I feel the strongest about performances in general when they’re shot in that way because you’re in it,” Monaghan said. “You are in the thick of it, and to say that I go to sleep at night and dream about the character and the role, you are. It’s 21 days where you’re attacking it for that period of time, and you don’t have time to think about it. Good things tend to come from that.”
One of the best scenes in “Fort Bliss” comes at the beginning when Maggie and dozens of other troops are returning home from Afghanistan. It looked like the production succeeded in hiring the best background extras they could find as they looked so incredibly enthusiastic in welcoming the soldiers home, but it turns out there was a lot more authenticity involved than we realized.
“When you see the coming home scenes at the beginning, it was truly people of soldier’s families, military wives, husbands, and children that two days prior had just welcomed one of those big planes home,” Monaghan said. “Fort Bliss sent out an email saying, ‘Would you guys come back two days later to shoot a scene?’ So they brought back all their signs and it was amazing. The military band was there and even the Harley Davison guys came back and all the former vets with their bikes and everything. Everybody was so proud to be there. That’s so profound to be able to have that experience and to feel that energy of what it’s like and everybody hugging one another. To be able to have that access and that resource was so invaluable. We constantly had that throughout the process of filming. I say this film has been so blessed, but it has. I’m so grateful to everybody in how far reaching the efforts that everybody has gone to.”
“Fort Bliss” may be coming in under the radar, but it is truly deserving of your attention. It deals with the female perspective of war and how women still have a stigma attached to them whenever they serve in the military. Many expect women to stay at home and be a mother to their children instead of fighting wars overseas, but life continues to be more complicated than we expect it to be, and nothing is ever that simple.
You can also check out this video interview I did with Monaghan and Livingston which I did for the website We Got This Covered.